I wasn’t terribly surprised at the discoveries Charles Foster made by living as a wild animal in various nooks of the UK, especially in his back garden where he was trying to be fox.
Foster used to be a recreational hunter, the kind of hunter who tries to become the animal he’s killing, bit like a shaman. It’s quite a powerful search for identity which involves a fantasy of death, and no doubt a traditional one, but there other ways to experience a feeling of cold mornings, muddy paths, wriggling insects, fear and frenzy.
Foster must have suspected such at some point, so he decided to dig a den for himself in the earth like a badger, to dive in cold streams like an otter and so on.
Personally, I prefer hiking, surfing and yoga. You get the mud, you get the cold, wild animals watch you in disbelief, and if you practice enough yoga, at some point you start having very weird dreams where you’re no longer a human being.
But I totally appreciate Foster’s approach, because it’s proudly interdisciplinary, which is something that I really miss in general when dealing with people. Scientists won’t understand pain, even when it’s measurable, they will try to say it’s just a number, while philosophers won’t get facts, or they will dismiss them as uninteresting. The general public, in turn, just care about not appearing too radical, god forbid. So it’s very very rare to find someone with a genuinely divergent kind of thinking.
Charles A. Foster is a vet, with a PhD in medical law and ethic, as well as a barrister of the Inner Temple. Here he is.
While I was reading his book and enjoying it, an article appeared on the Guardian, where he brings his beastly work to its radical consequence.
If you were an elephant …
… the world would be a brighter, smellier, noisier place – and you would be a better, wiser, kinder person